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What does my grandmother's x-ray report indicate?

Q: My grandmother is 71 years old. When she was 69, she fell and hit her back. She did an x-ray, but the doctors did not find any problem. She fell down again this month and the lower back pain started again. She did an x-ray again, which said that there is a sclerosis of the vertebral bodies. Osteophytes are present from L1-L5 with narrowing of the disc spaces. No paraspinal mass. What does this mean? Please advise.

A:From your description your mother seems to have spondylosis of the spine. This is a condition in which the ligaments that hold bones together in the spine calcify and appear on X-rays as osteophytes. This is not a disease but part of normal ageing like greying of hair. However, symptoms can be quite distressing especially pain. Pain is usually worse with activity and can be episodic. Often extension exercises of the back help the patient. However, an occasional patient with significant compression of the nerve causing severe nerve pain or paralysis may need surgery. This decision can only be made after careful clinical evaluation. I would therefore, recommend that you would follow-up with a competent orthopaedic surgeon regarding exercises and for any other intervention.

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